Tragic images emerge from one of the world's worst coronavirus hotspots

Brianne Tolj
·5-min read

Haunting pictures have captured the devastating toll coronavirus is having in Brazil, one of the world’s worst coronavirus hotspots.

The South American country, which has the second highest number of coronavirus cases behind the US, registered 653 new coronavirus deaths on Sunday (local time), taking the total number of fatalities to 22,666, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has 363,211 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The actual number of cases and deaths is believed to be higher than the official figures, as the testing capacity of Latin America's largest country still lags.

The man is seen crying while standing near his aunt's body.
A man cries while waiting for the SOS Funeral team to rescue the body of his aunt, Lucia Rodrigues dos Santos, 60. Source: Getty Images

In Sao Paulo, the most populous and worst hit city, aerial video captured rows of open plots at a cemetery struggling to keep up with demand.

Images taken by Getty show members of the country’s SOS Funeral team removing the bodies of those who have died from coronavirus from their homes as mourning family members watch on.

One particular striking set of images shows the nephew and husband of Lucia Rodrigues dos Santos, crying while saying goodbye to the 60-year-old, who can be seen laying in a bed in one photo and later in a coffin in another.

While the cause of her death has not yet been determined, the toll of the deadly virus can be seen on the devastated faces of residents.

Raimundo dos Santos cries and holds the body of his wife, Lucia Rodrigues dos Santos.
Raimundo dos Santos cries and holds the body of his wife, Lucia Rodrigues dos Santos, while members of the SOS Funeral team wait to collect her. Source: Getty Images

SOS Funeral is a public service helping low-income families to hold burials. The demand for their services has drastically increased since the beginning of the worldwide pandemic.

Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro has been fiercely criticised for his handling of the outbreak, which has led to the exit of two health ministers amid his insistence in opposing social distancing measures while advocating the use of unproven drugs for treatment.

Now he's at the centre of a political crisis, after a video of a ministers' meeting was ordered to be released by Brazil's supreme court. The video is likely to add more fuel to claims the president interfered in appointing leaders of the federal police for personal gain.

As well, Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles is recorded proposing the government push through further environmental deregulation while people are distracted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of SOS Funeral team wearing personal protective equipments while carrying a coffin.
Members of SOS Funeral team wearing personal protective equipments perform a burial at the Sao Francisco cemetery in Manaus, Brazil. Source: Getty Images

The president recently hailed supporters rallying in the country's capital to back his administration.

Surrounded by security guards wearing masks, but not wearing one himself, Bolsonaro was shown in a live streaming video on his Facebook page greeting protesters waving Brazilian flags and calling him a "legend", days after Brazil topped Russia to become the world's second virus hotspot.

The Brasilia rally, one of several demonstrations Bolsonaro has encouraged in recent weeks, came as the administration of US President Donald Trump, a close ally of the far-right Bolsonaro, announced it was prohibiting foreigners from travelling to the United States if they had been in Brazil in the past two weeks.

A man sits with cardboard boxes in front of a boat at Manaus port. Source: Getty Images
A man waits to boarding goods to a boat at Manaus port. Source: Getty Images

US restricts travel from Brazil

The White House’s travel ban is a blow to right-wing Bolsonaro, who has followed the example of Trump by fighting calls for social distancing and touting unproven drugs.

Green card holders, close relatives of US citizens and flight crew members, among select others, will be exempt from the new restrictions, which come into force on May 28.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the new restrictions would help ensure foreign nationals did not bring additional infections to the US.

"The US maintains a strong partnership with Brazil and we work closely to mitigate the socioeconomic and health impacts of COVID-19 in Brazil," the US embassy in Brasilia said in a statement on Sunday.

An adviser to Bolsonaro downplayed the move, highlighting his shared views with Trump, including fighting the virus with unproven anti-malarial drugs.

"There is nothing specific against Brazil," international affairs adviser Filipe Martins tweeted.

Doctors and nurses working checking on patients.
Doctors and nurses working at the Intensive Treatment Unit at the Gilberto Novaes Municipal Field Hospital. Source: Getty Images

Some believe coronavirus is ‘fake news’

Jenni Milochis, a 33-year-old Australian teacher who has been living in Sao Paulo for 10 months, told the Today show the country is divided.

"There are people saying, 'oh, it's fake news', they wear the mask either as a chin strap or on the head,” she said.

"Then there's the other side of wearing the correct mask all the time and staying home. Grocery shopping for elderly neighbours, that type of thing."

Ms Milochis said she has been isolating in her home for 71 days and has only left five times to pick up essentials.

with AAP

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